Smarten Up – A few thoughts on student accountability

Clay Burell posed this question on his blog: should teachers focus on covering a wide variety of subjects or go in-depth on a few?

One teacher had this response:

A student who took AP World History the year after I had her for a grade nine European history class came to me during lunch and said the AP teacher lectured every class, and nobody was learning anything. (He told me he hated it, but he had to, because he had to cover 5,000 years for the AP Exam.) They wanted to come to me during lunch so they could understand it coherently – as narrative, cause/effect, the Great Story. It had little to do with technology. To me, it had more to do with active versus passive learning.

If a teacher “delivers” something to me, s/he did all the heavy lifting. All I did was sit there, possibly napping, and have it dropped in my lap. If the teacher lets me deliver, I have to do the lifting. I can’t fake that.

Some people enjoy lectures. I do, but it takes a certain kind of teacher to hold my interest. Usually that teacher is one who questions students during their lecture, pulling information out of us, keeping students invested. We have too many standards. Plain and simple. Teachers feel like they are forced to rush through material to cover everything, giving their students at least a chance at a guess of filling in the right bubble. Get back to leaner standards linked to assessments based on the students ability to use what they’ve learned analytically and comprehensively. It’s not about knowing the Battle of Hastings was in October of 1066, but why that event is important and how to explain that to someone.

One commentator, a preschool teacher, put how we need to reform how our children learn best:

Shouldn’t the primary focus of our school system be to foster learning by encouraging students in building their own knowledge? Wouldn’t this set up individuals for a more successful future with the ability to guide their own learning and seek answers to questions on their own? I was a successful student throughout school, but the majority of the content that I was able to memorize at the time is lost to me now.

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